Tuesday, December 8, 2009

OOPS! We cut down the pollinator

CCF12082009_00000This is a follow-up post from the previous espalier apple post. Our 1929 bungalow came with a neglected yard. It had several weedy elm trees,large chokecherry bushes, weeds and overgrown lilacs. One lilac was even blocking the entrance to the garage. This little crab apple flourished as I removed lawn and added gardens to the front.  The only problem was that as it grew larger it gave even more tiny, tiny crab apples.  The apples were without flavor and even the abundant deer avoided them.  Then in the fall they would all fall. Sometimes 2 or 3 wheel barrows full of squishy apples which would also stain the side walk.  I told my husband I was sure that the reason this  tree was named a crab apple was because it made their owners "crabby"  I certainly did not enjoy cleaning up after this beautiful one time blooming tree.  So as part of my lowering the maintenance of the front yard, we cut it down.  Yes, we did that! And we dug out it's stump making room for my ground cover gardens.  My being "crabby" was not the only reason for getting the chain saw out. The large shade elm had also flourished and the yard looked overcrowded.

Now the reason for this very public confession is that this crab apple was  a good pollinator for my neighbor's apple tree and my grafted espaliered copy of the same tree.   About every apple needs another type of apple as a pollinator (except for, I learned, Queen Cox which is self-fertile)  The recommended maximum distance between pollinators is about 100ft, some say 50 yards.  This seems to be the distance that bees will travel with pollen from one apple to another.  My neighbor does have a pollinator maybe 175 ft on the other side of his yard.  But, my little espaliered apple has nothing close.  So every spring, I pick a bouquet of crab apple flowers and place them in a bucket under the little espalier. Am I doing penance? The bees work both flowers and we have apples.  Ted says that maybe we should add another espaliered apple variety.  We'll see.  I don't know where I would put it.


  1. Wow. Didn't know crab apples were that tasteless that deers avoided them. The tree do look very beautiful from your pictures.
    Its a pity the tree have to go because of all the mess that it caused.

    I wish I got apple blossoms in my place, that surely would look very cheerful & lovely in the monotone of tropical green.

  2. The flower bouquet is such a great idea!

    That crab apple looks fantastic in the picture, but I know what you mean about crab apples! When I was young, I used to have to rake up after two HUGE ones every fall! YUCK!

    I did plant one in my garden, but it has huge flowers (looks like little magnolia flowers), the bark is a shiny red-orange, and the fruit stays on the tree through the winter creating a decorated "winter tree"!

  3. Hello Gloria,

    Isn't it so true that we learn from our mistakes. Show me a gardener who has never made a mistake....there aren't any :0)

  4. True confessions... I love it!

    In one of my Master Gardening classes I learned that the Golden Delicious apple is a pollinator for every type of apple tree. I planted one of those and now I have lots of fruit. None of it edible -- because, as I confessed to you, I thought it wise to grow apple trees from seed. Oops. :(

  5. That is an interesting story...at least you found a work-around after cutting the crab apple down. I would like to grow a small apple tree in our garden. Just need to decide what might be best. One neighbor down the street has a couple apple trees and there are a couple pollinators near by.

  6. Now, you should feel better Gloria, after this confession! I should say, you found a clever solution. The bees come!